Rory and I became involved in Great Danes in 1975, when we purchased a bitch from “Rathgael Kennels”, which was the top Great Dane Kennels of that time in New Zealand. Her name was “Aust/NZ Ch Innocence of Rathgael”. This bitch was a winner in the ring right from the first outing, of course we were hooked. She went on to become the first Great Dane ever to win an All Breeds Best in Show in new Zealand, and also the first Dane to hold “Aust & New Zealand” duel championship titles. She produced our first litter under our “Thornwood” prefix, one of which “NZ Ch Dimitre of Thornwood” was a huge winner, and to complete his show career, took out 2 Specialty Best in show awards at the age of 10 years, under Margaret Everton (UK) and Rosemary blood (USA), both Great Dane specialists.
In 1978 we moved to Australia with kids and dogs. Since our prefix was already registered there by another kennel (different breed), we changed our kennel name to “Congistador”. Under that prefix we have produced many specialty and All Breeds Best in Show Winners, and whilst living in Australia, owned and/or bred “Danes of the Year” in New south Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
In 1995 we purchased 2 dogs from “Grand Fawns Kennels” in Sweden and another 3 over the ensuing years. These dogs are the basis of our breeding program today, and have made a huge impact raising the bar for Great Danes in New Zealand.
Eight years ago we returned with 6 dogs to New Zealand, and since being back, have established “Congistador” as the top winning Great Dane Kennel in the country, having been awarded “Dane of the Year” for the last 8 years, 5 of which were with this countries top winning dane of all time “Ch congistador Lilly Bean” who amassed a staggering 15 Best and Runner Up Best Exhibits in Show at All Breeds and Specialties, and awarded “Dane of the Year” for 5 consecutive years . Over the years we have owned and/or breed 39 Aust, US and NZ Champions and have been awarded 72 Best and Runner Up Best Exhibits in Show at Specialty and All Breed Shows. For theLast 2 years this kennel has been awarded NZ Showdogs All Breeds Kennel of the Year, and we also titled the 1st Great Dane to obtain his Grand Championship in the North Island and only the 2nd in history. This is no mean feat, considering that here in NZ you have to win 3 All Breeds Best Exhibits in Show under 3 different judges.
We both obtained our licence to judge and award CC’s to Great Danes at Championship shows in 1992, and since then have judged danes in Australia, Sweden and New Zealand, including the Qld Great Dane specialty , the New South Wales Great Dane Specialty and co-judged the Swedish Great Dane clubs 45th anniversary show 2008. Rory is also licenced to judge and award CC’s in the Non Sporting Group at Championship shows and we are both licenced to judge Best in Show at All Breeds at Open show level.
The highlight of our breeding would have to be having bred the first Great Dane to be bred in Australia or New Zealand to obtain the title of American Champion. This was huge, and although several kennels have tried to obtain this honour, none have succeeded. We proudly acknowledge “US Ch Congistador Next Tune at Music Box” and Karen Burkhart who owner/handled him to his title, finishing with two 5 point majors.
I cannot imagine that there will be a time when we never have a dane in our lives. It is definitely a passion which we whole heartedly put everything into, striving to make sure that we produce stock that is sound and healthy.